There was a strong entry of 31 Sprint 15s at the Grafham Cat Open for the Class Inland Championships on 22/23 October where the Class was once again the biggest (by far) at the event. Team Marconi had an impressive 9 boat entry including 2 juniors after some encouragement by team organiser Jenny Ball. There were also strong attendances by the Thorpe Bay and Shanklin Clubs.
Saturday was a bright sunny day with a Northerly F3 breeze and there were 3 races back to back down the centre of the lake.
In the first race Steve Sawford led the fleet for the first couple of laps hotly pursued by Chris Tillyer, Stuart Snell, Kevin Kirby and George Love. The wind was prone to large shifts which were catching out some on the beats and by the start of the third lap Snell had taken over the lead. Hurricane guru, Andy Webb, who was sailing his first Sprint 15 open with 12 year son Finley, found he was making progress on the beats only to fall back on the runs with the need to tack downwind. At the gun Snell had a clear lead from Tillyer, Sawford, Kirby and Love.
Race two followed quickly and Kirby was first to the windward mark from Erling Holmberg who was trying out a new boat with 7Kg of ballast as an experiment for the Class Association. Kirby had really got the bit between his teeth and by lap 3 was several hundred yards ahead of Stuart Snell who was a long way clear of Holmberg, Will Stefanou and David Ball. As the wind was holding Race Officer, Nigel Denchfield, sent the fleet around for a fourth lap and by the finish Snell had resumed ‘normal service’ by taking the gun from Kirby, Holmberg and Steve Healy, who was making up for missing the start of the first race due to a rudder problem.
The next race started quickly but with significantly less wind and a wayward Hobie Dragoon which straddled the fleet on the start line put the fleet to the test. The windward mark in the lighter wind was now in the shadow of the trees on the Northern shore and rounding it became a challenge. John Manning was first around followed by Holmberg and Healy. As they progressed along the reach the wind strength recovered but the Catapults who started 6 minutes after the Sprint 15s but had avoided the lull had already overtaken many of the Sprint 15s. With the wind restored Holmberg and then Kirby lead the race for periods but Holmberg who had prospered by taking the right side of the first beat found to his cost it did not pay on the following lap. The race was finished after 3 laps and Kirby took the gun from Snell, Jim Bowie and Liam Thom. The fleet retired to the bar talking of how shifty the wind had been and Sawford was kicking himself for missing the gate on one lap in race 3 taking him to the back of that race.
On Sunday with the addition of Club racing the course was moved to the dam end of the lake, but as luck would have it, the wind was a little stronger and was NNE which enabled a clear wind over the left end of the dam. With this wind direction a good length windward leg was possible and both reaches were square and much preferred to the fetch of the previous day. In race four Love tore off to an early lead with Tillyer, the Webbs and Thom chasing. Love held on for a couple of laps but Webb was finding the stronger wind and better reaches much to his liking and the two-up boat with a jib was no longer a disadvantage downwind. By lap 3 the Webbs were in the lead and they took the gun from Love but Love had no gun as he had been OCS so lost his best result of the weekend. Snell took second from Thom, Kirby and Bowie. Also worthy of note was that Catherin Farthing had her best race with a 7th and was first lady in this race.
The wind held and races 5&6 followed a very similar pattern with Snell taking 2 more guns and Jenny Ball taking 2 2nd places, the Webbs collecting 4th & 3rd, Love took a 3rd and Kirby a 4th.
At the end of the day Stuart Snell was the clear winner and thus retained the Inland Championships, from Kevin Kirby (second) and Andy and Finley Webb took third place in their first Sprint 15 traveller meeting. Jason Clarke of Marconi won the trophy for top Youth. Other places are listed below. It was noticeable that the 5 new UK built boats that were taking part were all in the top 8 places.
The fleet went away satisfied after an excellent regatta. They thanked Grafham for the good organisation and Race Officer, Nigel Denchfield and team, for good courses and slick turnarounds between races.
This event concluded the Sprint 15 Summer Traveller series but the Winter Traveller series kicks off at Stewartby on 5 November.
Overall Results: 1st S Snell (Grafham) 6pts, 2nd K Kirby (Marconi) 15pts, 3rd A & F Webb (Harwich) 25pts, 4th J Ball (Marconi) 31pts 5th E Holmberg (Shanklin) 31pts, 6th C Tillyer (Thorpe Bay) 32pts, 7th L Thom (Shanklin) 32pts, 8th J Bowie (Thorpe Bay) 34pts, 9th G Love (Carsington) 37pts, 10th D Ball (Marconi) 37pts, 11th S Healy (Thorpe Bay), 12th S Sawford (Rutland)
Top Grafham Boat: S Snell
Top Youth: J Clark (Marconi)
Report by Bob Carter
Pictures by Nigel Denchfield and Nick Champion.
Full Series Results available here